The burqa and hijab controversy, which arose from Udupi, Karnataka, looks unlikely to stop. Such demands, which started from the last week of December last year (2021), are now gaining momentum in other schools and colleges of Karnataka as well. Slogans like ‘No Hijab No Kitab’ are being raised. In protest against them, at some places, boys and girls of the majority society also started reaching schools and colleges by wearing saffron patkas and scarves around their necks. The Karnataka High Court has banned this type of dress (hijab or saffron scarf) in educational institutions till the hearing of the case and advised students to go to school in uniform and educational institutions to start classes. Surely the court will give its final decision keeping this in view as to what and how much justification is there for such demands in the temples of education. It is not that such cases have come before the court for the first time. In a similar case, on December 15, 2016, the Supreme Court, while rejecting the demand of Mohammed Zubair, who was serving in the Air Force to have a beard on the basis of religious beliefs, had said—“The regulations and policies in regard to personal appearance are not intended to discriminate against religious beliefs nor do they have the effect of doing so. Their object and purpose are to ensure uniformity, cohesiveness, discipline and order, which are indispensable to the Air Force, as indeed to every armed force of the Union.” The Supreme Court in this judgment had upheld the plaintiff's expulsion from service while rejecting the argument that it was mandatory to keep a beard in Islam. Legal experts are also of the opinion that schools-colleges, offices, or any institution has the right to decide its dress code. And the students studying in it and the staff working there also have the option not to attend the concerned institution. Everyone has complete freedom in their respective homes, places of worship or prayer to follow the basic rites and religious beliefs, but since the person goes to the institutions voluntarily, it is necessary to follow the dress code, rules and discipline applicable there. They also believe that in a free, sovereign, secular and constitutionally governed country like India, the customs or practices of a particular religion or sect cannot be imposed on institutions. This will create a state of anarchy there. Such a situation will also hamper and affect the spirit of national unity, equality and fraternity. Moreover, in many Islamic countries, burqa and hijab are banned in various institutions. According to Arif Mohammad Khan and other Islamic experts, hijab and burqa are not mandatory in Islam. Only Kalma, Namaz, Roja, Zakat and Hajj are mandatory. Hajj, too, is mandatory only for those who are financially capable.
The insistence and obsession of wearing burqa and hijab in educational institutions not only legally but also from a social point of view are permissive and regressive ideas. These young girls, who are being used as weapons to permeate the politics of religious bigotry and separate identity, may not know that these demands will become their fetters someday. It should be noted that the story of Talibanisation of Afghanistan also started with similar demands and the women and girls there had to pay the highest price. In the name of Sharia law, not only in Afghanistan but also in many other Islamic countries, women and girls have to go through many restrictions and inhuman conditions. The student-organisation ‘Campus Front of India’, which mobilises support for demands like hijab and burqa in Karnataka schools and runs the hashtags, is associated with radical Islamic organisation ‘PFI’ involved in anti-national activities. Organisations like Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind and All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen coming out openly in support of the agitating girl students, sharp reaction by the Pakistani Government, the issuance of statement by the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and now advocates of the petitioners, Devdutt Kamat’s recommendation to postpone the hearing till the elections in five states; all of this is a strong indication of the forces and the conspiracy behind the scenes. Till today, Muslim girls continue to go to school and college without burqa and hijab; why did they suddenly feel its necessity? Rather, the hijab was almost negligible in India by the end of the twentieth century. It is ridiculous that some people are justifying this by citing the issue of security. What danger do they have in their school-college classrooms, from their teachers and classmates? Such a weak and lame argument! Whereas common, liberal and progressive Muslim women themselves should think that obstacles have been kept in the way of their progress until date only by resorting to such customs and practices. Their high flights have been shunned and dreams strangled. It would be ironic that on the one hand, the chains of holdback are melting all around, the dirt that has accumulated in the repressive hearts and minds over centuries is being cleansed, the walls of the thresholds are being traversed, and millions of daughters of India have achieved new records of success. On the other hand, in the liberal, modern and today’s scientific era, this kind of stubbornness and passion is being nurtured, encouraged and motivated.
Many eminent stars and actresses have seemed oblivious to the tradition of Kanyadan, they have had a strong objection to this use of the word, but they do not get tired of telling that wearing burqa or hijab is a freedom of choice and fundamental right
It is astonishing that the so-called intellectuals, progressivist and feminist writers, human rights and social revolutionaries and all the advocates of change, who in the name of women's freedom and rights, issue a statement against wearing veils or purdah system, against wearing mangalsutras, against wearing a bindi or vermilion, bangles, anklets, toenails and fasting, etc.; they are completely silent on burqa and hijab. Many eminent stars and actresses have seemed oblivious to the tradition of Kanyadan, they have had a strong objection to this use of the word, but they do not get tired of telling that wearing burqa or hijab is a freedom of choice and fundamental right. All such intellectuals and pseudo-secularists must read this excerpt from Dr Bhimrao Ambedkar’s famous book ‘Pakistan or Partition of India’ published in the 1940s:— “Muslim women lag behind women of other castes because of the system of purdah. They are not able to participate in any kind of outdoor activities, due to which a kind of slavery and inferiority complex remains in them. They do not even have the desire to acquire knowledge because they are taught that they should not take an interest in anything else outside the boundary wall of the house. Being deprived of a healthy social life leads to a wrong tendency in them. Being completely isolated from the outside world, their attention remains entangled in petty family disputes. This result comes in the form of narrow thinking and narrow outlooks. Purdah system is a real problem among Muslims, whereas it is not so among Hindus. There is no evidence that Muslims have ever tried to end it. Social evils are also present in Hindus, but the good thing is that they accept their mistake and are running a movement against it. But Muslims do not even believe that there is any evil in their society."
The Indian Muslim society not only shows apathy towards liberal and reformist movements but also often agitates in their resistance. Many people, while simplifying the problem, explain illiteracy and poverty as the reason for the orthodox thinking and bigotry of Muslim society. They forget that Osama bin Laden was the engineer, Afia Siddiqui was the neuroscience specialist, Al Zawahiri was a surgeon
In the above statement of Babasaheb, along with the illustration of the problem, the solutions are also embedded. It is true that in Hindu society, too many evils flourished and spread at some point in time, but later some saints or social reformers started reformist movements against them, and those movements also got wide public support. As a result, now, the Hindu society has become almost free from all the evils like the practice of sati, purdah system, child marriage, mismatched marriage, untouchability, prohibition of widow-marriage. But unfortunately, the Indian Muslim society not only shows apathy towards liberal and reformist movements but also often agitates in their resistance. Many people, while simplifying the problem, explain illiteracy and poverty as the reason for the orthodox thinking and bigotry of Muslim society. They forget that Osama bin Laden was the engineer, Afia Siddiqui was the neuroscience specialist, Al Zawahiri was a surgeon, Al Baghdadi had a PhD, and Hafiz Saeed was a lecturer. Even the youths who have joined the terrorist organisation ISIS have also been highly educated. In fact, the real problem of Muslim society is that it is not at all ready to change according to time and era.